A recent BBC News report highlighted a slew of interesting examples of cybersquatting where domain names similar to existing brand names are bought up to compete with competitors, confuse buyers, or with the intent to make money by reselling them. Among the brands involved in recent cases are Google’s new parent company, Alphabet and the abc.xyz domain, and German automaker BMW which managed to win back the b.mw domain from a Japanese owner who tried to sell it for $1 million.
Another cybersquatting example written about by BBC News involved the story of a small British furniture retailer, Interior Goods Direct that tried to renew its domain name three days past the renewal deadline. Lucky for them, they actually had 30 days to pay for the renewal beyond the deadline date, since they discovered that someone else had already tried to register their domain name. Even a small retailer like Interior Goods Direct has bought up more than 100 domain names to keep cybersquatters at bay.
Last month, the International Olympic Committee sued a businessman in U.S. federal court who it claimed had stockpiled nearly 1,500 domain names associated with potential future Olympic host cities (e.g., Rome2024.com, Paris2024.com and LosAngeles2024.com). Apparently, Stephen P. Frayne Jr. has been doing this for years, since back in 2008 the U.S. Olympic Committee tried to recoup the domain name Chicago2016.com from him in a Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) action. Frayne fought back with a complaint contending that he had purchased the domain name to “establish a bona fide noncommercial forum for an 'open and honest discussion' about the Olympic Games." That suit was settled in 2009, but then in 2014, the IOC once again ran into a Frayne-owned domain when it attempted to buy Tokyo2020.com for the Japanese city’s Olympic bid organizing committee.
Even several current U.S. presidential candidates have been the target of cybersquatters, as we wrote recently. And, in another recent case, American restaurant chain Chipotle had been responding to online job applicants from the email address “email@example.com.” It turns out that the chipotlehr.com domain isn’t owned by Chipotle — it had been purchased by an individual for just $30. That means that everything in Chipotle’s Human Resources email system could have been at serious risk of exposure.
Cybersquatting isn’t a new phenomenon (take a look at some famous cases from as early as 15 years ago from Computer Weekly — involving a range of brands from Dell Computers to actress Julia Roberts), but it has become more of an issue as the number of domain extensions grows. "We've seen almost twice the number of cases involving these new gTLDs this year versus last year," Brian Beckham, head of the internet dispute resolution section at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), told BBC News. This infographic about cybersquatting, created by IrishApps, includes some interesting details about which brands are most frequently infringed upon, the top industries where domain disputes come up, and where the most domain name complaints are filed.
As more domain extensions have become available, companies and brands are purchasing more and more domains, but this can become expensive, especially for small and medium-sized businesses. Some people have made buying domain names their business, like Michael Mann, founder of DomainMarket.com, who bought up 14,962 domain names in a 24-hour window back in 2012. Mann told CNET at that time: "I'm just really greedy. . . I want to own the world." According to The Washington Post, one of Mann’s largest purchases was of the domain sex.com for $11 million, which he resold for $13 million in 2010.
As domain real estate booms, threats to brand revenue and reputation are an everyday reality. Identifying which cybersquatters pose the greatest threats and taking action to stop infringements can be an overwhelming and time-consuming task. Capturing and tracking evidence and trying to collaborate with others requires hours of research and careful coordination.
Now there’s an easier, faster way to locate and capture the evidence you need to address high-risk domain infringement threats affecting your brands. Corsearch Domain Vigilance helps you quickly find, categorize and prioritize domain infringement to take enforcement action for fast resolution. Traffic data and screenshots help identify and prioritize high-risk infringement and our collaborative enforcement platform and evidence tracking features support swift infringement resolution. Request a demo today!